Photo of Jennifer Labus, PhD
Jennifer Labus, PhD
Director, Neuroimaging and Biostatistics Core, Oppenheimer Center for Neurobiology of Stress; Associate Professor, Division of Digestive Diseases, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Dr. Jennifer S. Labus is an Associate Professor in the David GeffenSchool of Medicine at University of California, Los Angeles. She is an investigator and Director for the Neuroimaging and Bioinformatics Core in the Oppenheimer Family Center for Neurobiology of Stress at UCLA. Her research is focused on the interface of stress, pain and emotions and its influence on the role of dysregulation in the pathophysiology of common chronic pain disorders. She has unique expertise in applying advanced statistical and computational technologies to analyze multimodal brain imaging data. She has made seminal contributions to mapping neural networks underlying visceral pain. Dr. Labus’ current research focus lies in applying a biological system based approach using bioinformatics, network analyses, supervised and unsupervised machine learning tools to integrate multimodal brain imaging data with other large scale biological data sets including genetics and metabolomics. This research provides the means to integrate and decipher large amounts of multivariate neuroimaging data to subgroup patients based on objective biological markers, and characterize central nervous system alterations for further pathophysiological investigations targeting treatment of chronic pain and obesity. She has been the recipient of a K08 Career Development award, Effective connectivity of central response in irritable bowel disorder, from the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK) as well as a RO3 award examining the role of altered attention and emotional arousal networks in IBS. Recently, acting as lead Co-Primary investigator she was awarded R01 funding by the National Institute of Childhood Health and Human Development (NICHD) to use brain imaging data, along with genetic, physiological and biological data, to extensively phenotype women with vulvodynia. Dr. Labus is a co-investigator on several NIH funded grants, international research collaborations, and is actively involved in mentoring graduate students and postdoctoral fellows. As a result of her work she was awarded the Master’s Award in Gastroenterology in 2010 for her outstanding achievements in Basic and Clinical Digestive Sciences. Dr. Labus was also the recipient of the American College of Neuropsychopharmacolgy Travel Award in 2013.

Relevant Recent Publications


Photo of Helen Lavretsky, MD
Helen Lavretsky, MD
Professor in Residence, Psychiatry and Biobehavioral Sciences, David Geffen School of Medicine at UCLA

Dr. Helen Lavretsky is the Geriatric Psychiatrist at UCLA with research interests in treatment and prevention of mood and cognitive disorders of aging. Her studies have already shown that mind-body exercise such as yoga and Tai Chi can help to reduce depression and cognitive decline in aging adults and in stressed caregivers. Current research studies offer participation in Tai Chi and yoga studies, as well as pharmacological studies for geriatric depression and mild cognitive impairment.

Dr. Lavretsky aims to investigate the role of microbiota in late life mood and cognitive disorders by comparing microbiome composition in those with and without mood and cognitive symptoms, and to develop interventions targeting microbiota and wellness for prevention of mood disorders and cognitive decline in older adults.

Relevant Recent Publications

  1. Lee S.M., Lavretsky H. “Microbiota and disorders of aging” IN: Complementary and Integrative Therapies for Mental Health and Aging. Eds: Lavretsky, Sajatovic, Reynolds, Oxford University Press [in press].
Photo of Huiying Li, PhD
Huiying Li, PhD
Assistant Professor, Department of Molecular & Medical Pharmacology; Faculty, Crump Institute for Molecular Imaging, UCLA

My interest in the microbiome research began from The Sorcerer II Global Ocean Sampling Expedition led by the J Craig Venter Institute several years ago, where I applied bioinformatics to study microbial protein families in the ocean microbiome. The current research in my lab focuses on understanding the human microbiome, the collective genome of trillions of microorganisms residing in the human body, and its interactions with the host in relation to human health and diseases. Using multi-disciplinary approaches, including genomics, metagenomics, bioinformatics, high-throughput sequencing, microbiology, and biochemistry, we aim to identify the molecular mechanism of the human microbiome in health and disease pathogenesis and to develop diagnostic markers and therapeutics for microorganism-related human diseases. By combining computational and experimental approaches, the ultimate goal of my research is to understand the human-microbiota symbiotic system at both molecular level and systems level.

My research group is highly experienced in high-throughput sequencing and data analysis with expertise in bioinformatics, 16S rDNA sequence analysis, metagenomic shotgun sequence analysis, RNA-Seq data analysis, and genome assembly, annotation and comparison. I was funded by the Human Microbiome Project (HMP) among the 15 Demonstration Projects to study the role of the human skin microbiome in acne. I am currently funded by the NIGMS and NIDCR to study the human skin microbiome and oral microbiome and their associations with diseases.

Relevant Recent Publications

  1. Kang D, Shi B, Erfe MC, Craft N, Li H. Vitamin B12 modulates the transcriptome of the skin microbiota in acne pathogenesis. Science Translational Medicine. 2015; 293(7): 293ra103.
  2. Liu J, Yan R, Zhong Q, Ngo S, Bangayan NJ, Nguyen L, Lui T, Liu M, Erfe MC, Craft N, Tomida S, Li H. The Diversity and Host Interactions of Propionibacterium acnes Bacteriophages on Human Skin. The ISME Journal. 2015; 9: 2078-2093.
  3. Shi B, Chang M, Martin J, Mitreva M, Lux R, Klokkevold P, Sodergren E, Weinstock GM, Haake SK, Li H. Dynamic Changes in the Subgingival Microbiome and Their Potential for Diagnosis and Prognosis of Periodontitis. mBio. 2015; 6(1): e01926-14.
  4. Liu J, Cheng A, Bangayan NJ, Barnard E, Curd E, Craft N, Li H. Draft Genome Sequences of Propionibacterium acnes Type Strain ATCC6919 and Antibiotic-Resistant Strain HL411PA1. Genome Announcements. 2014; 2(4): e00740-14.
  5. Kasimatis G, Fitz-Gibbon S, Tomida S, Wong M, Li H. Analysis of Complete Genomes of Propionibacterium acnes Reveals a Novel Plasmid and Increased Pseudogenes in an Acne Associated Strain. BioMed Research International. 2013; 2013: 918320.
  6. Tomida S, Nguyen L, Chiu BH, Liu J, Sodergren E, Weinstock GM, Li H. Pan-Genome and Comparative Genome Analyses of Propionibacterium acnes Reveal Its Genomic Diversity in the Healthy and Diseased Human Skin Microbiome. mBio. 2013; 4(3): e00003-13.
  7. Fitz-Gibbon S, Tomida S, Chiu BH, Nguyen L, Du C, Liu M, Elashoff D, Erfe MC, Loncaric A, Kim J, Modlin RL, Miller JF, Sodergren E, Craft N, Weinstock GM, Li H. Propionibacterium acnes Strain Populations in the Human Skin Microbiome Associated with Acne. Journal of Investigative Dermatology. 2013; 133: 2152-2160.

Active Funding in Microbiome-Related Research

Funding Agency/Grant Number:NIH R01 GM099530
Title:“Population Dynamics of P. acnes and Their Phages in the Human Skin Microbiome”
Funding Agency/Grant Number:NIH R01 DE021574
Title:“Metagenomic Study of the Periodontal Microbiome in Healthy and Diabetic Subjects”
Photo of James Liao, PhD
James Liao, PhD
Chancellor’s Professor; Professor, Chemical and Biomolecular Engineering, Chemistry and Biochemistry

Microbial consortia for degradation of lignocellulosic biomass. We are interested in developing microbial systems for fast and cost-effective deconstruction of lignocellulosic biomass in relatively small scale. The end product could be organic acids, methane, or hydrogen.

Photo of Jake Lusis, PhD
Jake Lusis, PhD
Professor, Departments of Medicine, Cardiology, Human Genetics, Microbiology, Immunology & Molecular Genetics, UCLA

My PhD is in biophysics but somehow I ended up doing mouse genetics for my postdoc. I’m still doing mouse genetics, now with a focus on complex genetic traits, particularly those related to cardiovascular and metabolic disorders. With the development of high throughput technologies, such as expression arrays and sequencing, we have found it useful to marry such data with genetic analysis (‘systems genetics’). I also enjoy teaching.

Relevant Recent Publications

  1. Wang Z, Klipfell E, Bennett BJ, Koeth R, Levison BS, Dugar B, Feldstein AE, Britt EB, Fu X, Chung YM, Wu Y, Schauer P, Smith JD, Allayee H, Tang WH, DiDonato JA, Lusis AJ, Hazen SL. (2011) Gut flora metabolism of phosphatidylcholine promotes cardiovascular disease. Nature. 472:57-63. PMCID:PMC3086762
  2. Bennett BJ, Vallim TQ, Wang Z, Shih DM, Meng Y, Gregory J, Allayee H, Lee R, Graham M, Crooke R, Edwards PA, Hazen S, Lusis AJ. (2013) Trimethylamine-N-oxide, a metabolite associated with atherosclerosis, exhibits complex genetic and dietary regulation. Cell Metab. 17:49-60. PMCID:PMC3771112
  3. Elin Org, Brian W. Parks, Jong Wha J Joo, Benjamin Emert, William Schwartzman, Eun Yong Kang, Margarete Mehrabian, Calvin Pan, Rob Knight, Robert Gunsalus, Thomas A. Drake, Eleazar Eskin, and Aldons J. Lusis. (2015) Genetic and environmental control of host-gut microbiota interactions. Genome Res., in press.

Active Funding in Microbiome-Related Research

Funding Agency/Grant Number:NIH PO1 HL28481
Title:“Molecular genetic approaches in atherosclerosis research.”
Goals:This program project is concerned with the identification and characterization of genetic factors contributing to energy homeostasis and metabolic disease. The emphasis is on combined human-mouse approaches.

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